A recently enacted California law clarifies that the California State University must adhere to state anti-discrimination codes, closing a loophole found after a court decision exempted the system from doing so.
“Unfortunately, there was a little wrinkle in the statute,” said Kevin Baker, staff counsel of the Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento. “(The new law) makes it absolutely clear what we meant and that we mean it: That all state-funded agencies also includes the California State University system and should abide to our state’s anti-discriminatory codes.”
The new law, Chapter 706, in the California Statutes of 2005, was Assembly Bill 1742 before it was signed, was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October 2005 and becasme effective Jan. 1.
Baker said he and Jones were inspired to write California law because of a racial discrimination case they read about in a newspaper, involving California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).
The plaintiffs in the court case used California Government Code Section 11135 in their complaint, according to a representative in the California State University Chancellor’s office. The representative asked not to be identified, citing unauthorization to speak to news media.
The law said that no person in California will be discriminated against or denied full benefits from programs or state agencies that receive state funding.
The plaintiff, a Latina named Rita Garcia, along with other co-plaintiffs, alleged that Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo discriminated against Latinos when she was not granted admission.
They argued that the university discriminated against Latinos by relying on SAT scores and giving admission to applicants who lived in San Luis Obispo, a predominately white area.
The court decided state laws that addressed anti-discrimination rules for state agencies did not apply to California State University, the representative said.
“The court’s decision was really wrong,” Baker said. “It said that unless California State University was not specifically named they are not subject to government anti-discriminatory codes. The new law is just to make sure there are no more future confusing court decisions.”
Baker said the law has lasting affects.
“The law we passed applies to every action decision California State universities make, from admissions (and) programs to residential halls,” Baker said. “Everything they do will have to abide by state anti-discrimination laws, like every other program or entity that receives state funding.”
Baker said when deciding on anti-discrimination codes in relation with students, the question that must always be resolved is are we keeping out students of color, and if so, why.
“We must really make sure that every barrier is down,” Baker said. “The Garcia case was a challenge to a rule that alleged a (college admission) preference to white people and that hurt people of color.”
According to the representative in the California State University Chancellor’s office, the CSU supported the Assembly Bill 1742 because as a state-funded institution, the CSU system should be subjected to all California civil rights laws. The CSU always felt that they were compliant with state laws, the representative said.
Christopher Shortell, assistant political science professor at CSUN, said although the law makes it absolutely clear that the CSU system must follow California civil rights laws, he feels it will not have an impact on decision making at our university.
“I don’t think its ever going to affect us,” Shortell said. “What it is, is the interpretation of the language of the original law. This campus was never laboring under (assumptions that it was not a government-funded institution). I don’t see an impact on CSUN students. I think we’ve been in compliance and this law is filling up some loopholes that may come up. It has nothing to do with Affirmative Action, Proposition 209 or any other laws out there.”
Yohanna Figueroa can be reached at Yef71686@csun.edu.